Google Plus Post Search Ranking: Authority Matters

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Recently I wrote “How Google Plus Profiles and Pages Gain Search Authority” for Search Engine Land. In that article I explained that Google+ pages and profiles have Google PageRank, which means that Google evaluates them for authority in ways similar to how it does “regular” web pages. I went on to show how that authority is built both by internal connections (the relationships and interactions one has within Google+) and externally (by links to one’s profile or page from web pages outside of Google+).

We don’t know all the benefits that authority brings, but the one place I believe I’ve seen it clearly matter is in the way Google+ posts appear in search results. I’ve been carefully watching that behavior almost every day of Google+’s two-and-a-half year history. Over that time, I’ve observed some patterns. Among the most interesting of those patterns is the way Google search treats reshared posts.

Post-Nesting in Reshared Google+ Posts

When you reshare someone else’s post in Google+, Google embeds the entire original post in the reshared post.

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another?

In other words, the entire original contents of the reshared post becomes part of the contents of the new post, and the text of the original post is indexed as part of the new post. That means it is possible for the reshared post to rank in search for keywords in the original (shared) post.

And that means that it is possible, if the re-sharer has high authority, to outrank the original poster for her or his own post!

This takes on even more importance when you add in another thing I’ve observed: For any given keyword in a widely-shared Google+ post, only one poster will typically end up ranking.

Let me explain that a little more fully. What I typically see when a post goes viral on Google+ is during the period of virality, when it is being rapidly reshared, several resharers may show up high in search for a unique keyword in the original post. And that group may or may not include the original poster.

But after the volume of reshares starts to die down, almost always only one post will emerge as high ranking (if any) for unique keywords in the original post. And that post will always be from someone with high authority (according to the criteria in my Search Engine Land article).

Challenge Accepted

I’ve had people express serious doubts about what I just shared, especially when I tell them that better than 90% of the time when I check, my profile will be the ranking post for anything I’ve reshared on Google+ (and yes, I’m doing those searches incognito, thanks for asking). I  explain that this is because from the earliest days of Google+ I did two things:

  1. I cultivated relationships with many of the most influential, non-celebrity users on Google+, so their high authority became associated with me.
  2. I used Google Authorship from its launch to connect to my large volume of popular posts on high-authority blogs across the web. As I have noted elsewhere, Google Authorship is essentially link-building to an author’s profile. So along with other links, I was building external authority for my profile.
Hulk Hogan Google Hangout

Hulk Hogan telling me, “Mark, I’m on your team! I love you man!” Not making that up – go to 7:16 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63wuQCmPE6M

But in my Search Engine Land article linked above, I only gave one example of me “running wild” Hulk Hogan-style over another Google+ user, and the example was from March 2012. I’ve had some people challenge me after reading that, saying one example, and a very old one, doesn’t make my case.

And they are right. I assured them that I’ve seen hundreds of examples of this over the last couple of years, but I owe them some evidence. So here it is.

The rest of this post will show five examples of my outranking power for reshared G+ posts. These five are the first five I came across browsing down my profile that contained a reshared post with a first line with a keyword unique enough to make it turn up in search. My purpose here is not to brag about some special ability of mine (anyone could replicate this if they put the time and care I have into network building and Google Authorship use that I have). Rather I just want to demonstrate that when it comes to Google+ posts, authority matters.

By the way, the effect of such authority is magnified many-fold in personalized search for people in your network. When I search Google logged in to my account, the Google+ posts I most often see are from others in my network who also have high-authority profiles.

So here’s my five rounds in the ring with five random Google+ reshares. We’ll tally up my score at the end. Whacha gonna do when Mark Traphagen runs wild on ya?

#1: Mark vs. the NewRayCom Page

Here is my reshare of a Google+ post by NewRayCom on 3 December 2013 (original post):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex. 1The search results for the title of the NewRayCom post:

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex. 1Ranking search result: Mine at #2. (The Google+ post by Natalie Villalobos at #1 was not sharing the NewRayCom post.)

My PageRank: 5

NewRayCom’s PageRank: 0

As an aside, my Google+ post is actually outranking the blog post by Ray Hiltz that was shared by NewRayCom for the same title; his post is at #4.

#2: Mark vs. The Huffington Post

Here is my reshare of a post by The Huffington Post on 3 December 2013 (original post):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex 2And the search results for the title of The Huffington Post post (“Happy Star Wars Tuesday!”):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex. 4Ranking search result: mine at #2

My PageRank: 5

Huffington Post’s PageRank: 6

Here is a case where the page I outranked has higher PageRank than me. But keep in mind as mentioned above Toolbar PageRank has not been updated since February, nearly 10 months before this post. In the past 10 months I am very confident that my profile has gained authority and is likely by now at least a 6. Given the logarithmic nature of the PageRank scale, the higher you go on the scale the harder it is to move up, so it is likely that Huffington Post, while they may also have moved up in the last 10 months, has not moved as much as I have, so that now we are at least close to equal, or I  might even be ahead. No way to know for sure, but I think the PageRank here is too close to call to say that isn’t the ranking factor.

As a further confirmation, I looked at backlink profiles for my profile vs. Huffington Post’s at Majestic SEO. Mine shows a Citation Flow of 17 and a Trust Flow of 19, while HuffPo’s comes up 0 and 0. While I doubt there are actually zero external backlinks to the HuffPo page (no tool catches them all), this would seem to at least verify that my profile has built up much more external authority.

For comparison and further confirmation, Moz Open Site Explorer gives my profile a 56 Page Authority vs. 51 for HuffPo, and show 24 external links to my profile as opposed to only 6 for theirs.

#3: Mark vs. John Kellden

My reshare of a post by John Kellden on 28 November 2013 (original post):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex. 5Search result for the title of John’s post (“Your Brain on Kairos”):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex. 6Ranking search result: Mine at #1.

My PageRank: 5

John Kellden’s PageRank: 4

#4: Mark vs. Eli Fennell

My reshare of a post by Eli Fennell on 26 November 2013 (original post):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex 7Search rankings for the title of Eli’s post (“Google Improving YouTube Comment Problems”):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex 8Ranking search result: Mine at #2.

My PageRank: 5

Eli Fennel’s PageRank: 4

#5: Mar vs. Danny Sullivan (In which I finally hit the mat!)

My Reshare of a post by Danny Sullivan on 21 November 2013 (original post):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex 9Here’s the search results for the title of Danny’s post (“Call it Google+Rank”):

Google Plus Posts Search Ranking - What makes one post outrank another? Ex 10Ranking search result: Danny Sullivan’s, at #4

My PageRank: 5

Danny’s PageRank: 6

Similar to the Huffington Post example above, Danny had a PR of 6 as of February 2013. Again, I think it likely that he and I have both continued to grow in influence and authority on Google+ over the past nine months. In this case, I find it easy to believe that he has outpaced me. Danny is one of the best-known personalities in search marketing today, and on Google+ that gets a lot of influential, active users following you, resharing you, and engaging with you.

Conclusion: 

So I went 4 for 5 on a random selection of posts, and the one I lost is one I would’ve been surprised to win.

Again, the point here isn’t how awesome I am (I don’t need a long post to convince you of that, do I? ;-) but rather a demonstration of the unique way Google+ reshares behave in Google Search, as well as the fact that profile and page authority matters.

This is a guest article by Mark Traphagen

 

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Mark Traphagen

@marktraphagen

Social Media | Google+ | Content Marketing | Online Brand Building | Google Authorship | Sr. Director of Online Marketing - http://t.co/FsYiNTJD8B
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Mark Traphagen
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Comments

  1. Hi, I'm the author of this post, and I'd be glad to engage with any questions or comments you may have. Thanks for reading!

  2. Great post, Mark.
    It underlines the importance of not putting too much focus on gaining followers but instead, nurture relationships with quality ones who reflect your target market.

    Question about PageRank.
    I understand Google just updated Page Rank. (My NewRayCom blog went up a point to 3).
    Re PR for Google+ Pages. I'm unable to generate a number from the toolbar app or http://www.prchecker.net. (Mine or other's G+ Pages)
    How did you find the ones ones you listed?

    …and thanks again for sharing my Steamfeed article.

    My recent post Have the Holidays Changed Your Social Marketing Routine?

  3. Hi Mark,

    Smart post. Sharing is caring and Google certainly cares when you share freely. Your results prove that.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan
    My recent post 4 Tips for Becoming a Brilliantly Strategic Blogger

  4. Hi Ray,

    Custom URLs given out recently seem to broken the connection to PageRank tools. Joshua Berg has some interesting theories about this that he's shared with me but wants to break himself, possibly later today. Stay tuned to his channel on Google+.

  5. Mark Traphagen Stimulating as always, thanks. Have a great week!

  6. Sir, can you tell (I couldn't find by googling) how do I write 'Titles' for my google plus posts? I've seen people having nice titles to their posts!

  7. Thanks Mark Traphagen you for the valuable article. Would it be a problem (as an example) if I shared your English article as Google+ post on my Google+ account, adding my German point of view and therefore mixing the languages with German and English key words? We know that Google has a problem with bilingual websites. The reason why I am using ccTLD´s in my business.
    Do you think the system works similarly when I shared your English website in my German Google+ post, instead of just your previous Google+ post in which you linked to your site?

    Many regards
    Elke Greim, Germany
    /also via Google+

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